With elections of Penn’s two branches of student government underway, two Penn track athletes are running for office with the hopes of utilizing what they have learned on the track to help them as student representatives.
When junior Robert Klopf III first started at Penn in the fall of 2015, he didn’t see himself running on the track team. He wasn’t recruited to run at Penn, and there had even been several times in high school where he thought seriously about quitting the sport entirely.
But when Klopf got to campus and realized that his times met Penn’s walk-on standards, it wasn’t hard for him to decide to join the team.
“I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to be the best I could be at it. I started to like it and once I started to like it, I feel like with anything, you start to get pretty good at it,” Klopf said. “I wanted to pursue this and keep seeing how good I could be.”
Now — nearly three years after first walking on to the team — Klopf is running for Penn Undergraduate Assembly President because he wants to see how good Penn can be too. And he thinks his experience on the track can help him do just that.
“I just think that this position would be a great vehicle or great means to change the culture at Penn and I think that it’s through sports that a culture changes,” Klopf said.
And while Klopf acknowledges that it won’t be easy to balance his commitments to the track team with the time that being UA President demands, he thinks being a student-athlete at Penn has prepared him for that type of challenge.
“Being part of a sports team teaches you how to handle that,” Klopf said. “It almost becomes that you manage your time in a way that you have more time in the day than a typical student does.”
Despite the demands of being an in-season athlete, it didn’t take long for junior Allysha Davis to look to get involved with Class Board after starting at Penn.
By the spring of her freshman year, Davis had been elected as her class’ Wharton Chair — a position which she is attempting to keep in this week's election. And while she had been involved in her high school’s student government, she knew that working in Penn’s student government would present a whole new set of challenges.
Beyond finding enough time in the week to manage her various commitments, Davis sought to use her platform to help Penn’s student-athletes better integrate with the rest of Penn’s student community — something she struggled with herself during her first year.
“It’s so easy to get comfortable in the athlete realm and just have friends in that community and not really branch out, so I wanted to put myself out there to not only to get to know people but also to work on projects that were meaningful,” Davis said. “I feel like being an athlete, it kind of gives you a realm to kind of reach out to people who might not be as interested in these events.”
And after two years of working on Class Board, Davis wants to keep working in her senior year to improve what what she’s already started.
For Davis, that means continuing to work to integrate the different corners of Penn’s student community, but she also sees herself as working against the conception that athletes should just stick to sports.
“Being an athlete, I definitely disagree with that statement that athletes should stay in their realm,” Davis said.
“I feel like athletes do have something to offer in that they know what it’s like to balance work and play, as far as being with their sports and being with what’s more important in their life.”
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